Why playing outside is so important

It seems like we see new studies coming out every day about the effects that prolonged screen time is having on our children. What we don’t see is much focus on though, is what the alternatives are. What do we do instead and what are the benefits of that? 

Well, one thing that we love here at Happy Hearts is nature play, and you might be surprised at just how much of an impact that it can have on your child’s development.

Nature play is simple and powerful. The outdoors lets children explore and create their own experiences in an environment that is dynamic and unstructured, delivering all kinds of benefits that will stick with them for life. 

Here’s some of the top reasons why playing outside is so important:

It improves social skills

When children play outside together they create their own games, rules and expectations. If you look closely you’ll see them discussing, planning, compromising and organising. Not every one can be “it” for tag or fit on the swings at one time, so turn-taking and conflict resolution are also practiced. Leadership and teamwork are big parts of outdoor play and learning these early on is a important for your child.

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It boosts confidence

If you watch a child outside you’ll often see them sizing something up, weighing up their options and assessing the risk. Playing outside allows them to learn how to safely test their limits. You’ll see the joy on their face when they get it right and even better, the determination to get up and try again if things don’t quite go to plan. All of this helps build self confidence.

The health benefits are endless

When you step outside, your body loves it! Not only are the children building their strength but they are getting essential Vitamin D for strong bones and development. Studies have even shown that children who play outside more have less chance of developing some eyesight problems and can concentrate better on tasks. Sun exposure and physical activity also helps to regulate sleep patterns which means less waking up at nights and a happier family. As long as you are careful to monitor sun exposure, especially in our more tropical climate, nature play is a great way to boost your child’s health.

It improves coordination

On top of the great health benefits mentioned above, children who play outdoors also have more opportunities to develop their coordination, fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Their body is learning and becoming more confident in its movements every time. Climbing, running, swinging ducking and throwing are all amazing ways for your child to develop their gross motor skills, balance and coordination. Collecting rocks, weaving grass, and building not only supports spatial awareness and problem solving but will also help develop fine motor skills, which are essential for handwriting and everyday tasks like shoelace tying, eating and doing up buttons.

Sets them up for later in life

It is reported that children who spend more time outside in unstructured play often do better in the classroom because they have improved concentration and a more developed sense of curiosity and creativity. But beyond the classroom other studies have shown that playing outdoors also reduces stress, increases overall happiness and can lead to better health and a greater appreciation of the environment in adult life. 

At Happy Hearts Child Care and Kindergarten we love to see our children learning and playing like this outside. That’s why we always make sure to balance our indoor, outdoor and structured and unstructured activities to help them develop in all areas of their lives. We hope you see the difference as well! 

For more great ideas for age appropriate outdoor play you can check out the Raising Children website here: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/outdoor_play.html